In his theology of the body, Pope John Paul talks about the "freedom of the gift." Today while reading about this I got a sudden flash of insight, a grace, about this important idea.
God is Gift, and we receive our life and very being from him as a gift. Everything we receive in life is a gift, and our task is to be aware of this and receive those gifts gratefully. It doesn't mean to be passive, for we can and should be active and develop ourselves. Then we can, in turn, make a gift of ourselves to others.
But sometimes we go from wanting a good thing and taking the means to be able to receive it, to "grasping" for it. I use "grasping" here in the sense of reaching out for something we think we're entitled to. This kind of grasping is the root of sin. Genesis speaks of how Adam and Eve saw the forbidden fruit was desirable, and they reached out and grasped it because they thought they were entitled to it, no matter what God had said. Stealing is probably the most obvious kind of sin we can commit by grasping for something we're not entitled to. But it can also operate in a more subtle way.
Even apart from sin, we can grasp for something that is good in itself, but perhaps not what God wants for me in my life right now. I was thinking about this in relation to the vow of obedience. A religious with this vow is certainly free to ask for things, perhaps going on a certain trip or for more education, or any number of things. If my superior agrees to the request, fine. If she doesn't, obedience calls me to accept that and see what God is telling me through it. Maybe God is asking me to probe my motives a bit more and see what I really want. Do I want this thing for some selfish reason? Or do I want it so that I can make a gift of myself? Perhaps God is asking me to make a different kind of gift than I thought I could make by getting my original request.
If I am so bound and determined to get something that I can't walk away from it even when obedience asks me to, then I'm no longer free. That thing I want, even if it's a good thing in itself, has lured me to give up my freedom. I no longer have the "freedom of the gift," as John Paul says.